Our Jazz & contemporary music editor Tony Andrews writes:
As anyone who knows me will confirm, I have an obsession with the music of female jazz singers.
My biggest problem these days is finding any originality among the newcomers who keep popping up – and that’s even with many established favourites. When a singer emerges who has talent, a fabulous voice, originality and a sparkling charisma turns up then ….. I get very excited.
This happened some years back when Tessa Souter was recommended to me by another US singer I was helping with tour organisation. I immediately acquired some of Tessa's CDs. These confirmed what I had been led to believe - she possesses not only a mesmerising voice but impeccable timing and a unique way of articulating her way through the every song.
About six months ago, she gave me a Limited Edition issue of ‘Picture in Black and White’.
There was only one condition to receiving this which was to keep it quiet and “do NOT review until the official launch tour.” The CD is now officially available so I can break the vow of silence and I can confirm categorically it is my favourite CD of the year by a mile.
Tessa never fails to amaze me with the choice of material and the only track which could considered as a standard is “Taste of Honey” and this is beautifully executed. Every other track is something to treasure and many combine established jazz tunes such as “Contemplation” (Ancestors) by McCoy Tyner with lyrics by Vicki Burns. Tessa has also selected material by Wayne Shorter with lyrics by Tessa and Ornette Coleman but with lyrics by Margot Guryan.
This concept works well because ..... many established jazz tunes have so much going for them and the addition of lyrics that takes them to a new level of both creativity and enjoyment. Another track comes from the folk repertoire. “Reynardine” is a lovely song and Tessa makes no attempt to jazz it up but sings it as a straight ballad - as intended. (HP’s comment – saw Fairport Convention do this live first in 1968 at Manchester University and then regularly when Sandy Denny was lead singer; 17 times in all)
When I met Tessa earlier this year I asked who influenced her to start singing. To my amazement the answer was Folk/Jazz tinged super-group Pentangle and Tessa also loves the early Fairport Convention line up with Judy Dyble and Sandy Denny; both amazing singers. (HP’s comment – 100% correct)
The typical response to this question is always Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan ..... so it was so refreshing to hear Tessa's response to my question, an honest reply and not the one everyone assumes it should be. Tessa also has included two songs written by herself and very creditable efforts by any standards. These are the title track “Picture in Black and White” and “You Don't Have To Believe”.
All 12 tracks are terrific and the CD concludes “Nothing Will Be As It Was” by Milton Nascimento, Rene Vincent and Ronaldo Bastos which I have always enjoyed and it adds a little bit of Latin to an incredibly varied selection of material. I can't stop playing this CD in the house, in the car and on the move. It has to be a must buy and to make this possible Tessa will be performing selected tracks in London on the 27th November (details below) where the CD will be available to buy a copy and even get it signed.
The venue is The Woodman, 414 Archway, Highgate, N6 5UA starting at 8pm.
I have seen this line up with Tessa earlier this year at The Pizza Express Dean Street (where I shot all the images here) and an amazing trio. Sean Hargreaves has to be THE best kept secret in the UK - a fabulous Pianist.
I’ll be there and I hope anyone reading this will make the effort.
As an added bonus to any Audiophiles out there, the recording is outstanding and very close-miked to give it the Jazz Club in your Living Room appeal. Perfect for all those with true HiFi.